Despite the difficult moment we are all facing and despite the lockdown, which does not allow travelling, we are proud to keep the Balkan Asset Management Interagency Network (BAMIN) active by organising online activities.

The second BAMIN Steering Group Meeting on the 3rd of June 2020, being the first-ever delivered Online, was successfully delivered.

During the SGM, the discussion covered several topics, among which the postponement of the BAMIN Annual General Meeting due to the COVID19 travel restrictions and the planning of future activities for the year. Furthermore, the BAMIN website has been finalised and will be granting access to a private area for BAMIN Members where to upload files and access a repository with training material and informative documents.

The first Online SGM success, ensure that any future activity, if unable to be held live, will still be successfully delivered.

What is more, on the 4th of June the Online Training on Management of Crypto Assets for BAMIN was delivered. It is the first training delivered within BAMIN activities.

The speakers were experts from private and public entities from the UK – Mr Aidan Larkin from Asset Reality, Belgium – Mr Jean-Michel Verelst Deputy King’s Prosecutor of Brussels, and Ireland, Mr Nigel Petrie.

BAMIN Members as well as Practitioners from other countries who showed interest in the Network participated in the training. Overall, the training saw the attendance of over 14 different countries (Albania, Armenia, Belgium, Bosnia Herzegovina, Republic of Srpska, Bulgaria, Croatia, Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina, Georgia, Ireland, Kosovo, Moldova, Montenegro, North Macedonia, UK) representing Asset Management Offices and other relevant institutions.

The training started providing some background information on the Crypto Assets, ensuring that all participants would have an understanding of the topic. The second session provided a Belgian Case Study on the Management of Crypto Currencies, explaining the best practice when selling seized assets and the security behind these transactions.

The first afternoon session provided the focused on the Academic Research being conducted by Mr Petrie on Harmonising the Management of Crypto Assets and the importance of Standardisation. Lastly, the last session of the training moved toward the Advanced Crypto Assets for BAMIN Practitioner, in particular the challenges existing in dealing with Crypto Assets as well as providing the international point of view.

The training was a success, with the attendees participating actively and raising questions while enhancing their knowledge and awareness of this constantly changing and challenging topic.

Both the Steering Group and the Training were delivered thanks to the funding of the OSCE.

A large drug trafficking criminal network was shut-down after 3 years international operation launched and led by Montenegro in 2017, with support from Europol and Law Enforcement from Austria, Croatia, France, Portugal, Serbia and Slovenia.

The cartel was trafficking drugs, particularly cocaine, from origin countries to Europe, disrupting one of the routes from Central America to Europe.

A link to the full article can be found on Europol Website or clicking here:
https://www.europol.europa.eu/newsroom/news/balkan-cocaine-cartel-taken-down-in-montenegro

The first Balkan Asset Management Interagency Network (BAMIN) Steering Group meeting of the year took place in Tirana on the 12th and 13th of February 2020. The event was hosted by the Albanian Agency for Seized and Confiscated Assets.

Director Svetlana Kusić, Seized Asset Management Agency of the Republic of Srpska and Director Vinko Jakic, Federal Agency for the Management of Seized Property formally handed over the BAMIN Presidency to Mr. Emir Dacić, Deputy Director, State Property Agency, Montenegro. The Steering Group comprises the previous (Bosnia and Herzegovina), current (Montenegro), and next year’s presidency (Albania), taking key decisions on BAMIN’s priorities and work programme.

At its sixth year of life, the Network is still growing and willing to include new members. As emerged from the meeting, the key topics for the year are the expansion of the Network’s membership, developing new activities for 2020, including mentorship and joint training. Furthermore, considering the recognised importance of Asset Management within the Asset Recovery process, BAMIN’s involvement in the Global Asset Recovery network is deemed necessary.

BAMIN will aim to achieve the following for 2020:

  • One SGM in (February) and one the day prior to the AGM in June;
  • The AGM to be held in Montenegro in June;
  • Produce a BAMIN promotional video;
  • Launch the secure section of the website;
  • One joint training to be held in November in Croatia;
  • Mentoring sessions.

BAMIN is now entering a new stage of growth with the OSCE supporting the Network through the extra-budgetary project “Strengthening the fight against transnational crime in South-Eastern Europe through improved regional co-operation in asset seizure, confiscation, management and re-use”.

Managing Confiscated Property

How do agencies in the region manage the seized property? What are their responsibilities and how much are their legal solutions adapted? What is the cooperation of these agencies in the region and can individual countries apply the experiences of others?

These questions were addressed by Mr. Danijel Škugor, Secretary General of the Ministry of State Property of Croatia, Mr. Faton Asani, Director of the Agency for the Management of Confiscated Property of Northern Macedonia , and Mr. Kenan Kapo, director of the Federal Agency for the Management of Confiscated Property of BiH, on the Context talk-show on Al-Jazeera Balkans.

The Federal Agency for the Management of Confiscated Property marked its four year of existence on 26th of June, 2019. To mark the occasion, Kenan Kapo, Director of the Agency, and Faton Asani, director of the North Macedonian Agency for Management of Seized and Confiscated Property appeared on Channel N1 to discuss the work of the agencies, how the money is seized and what it is used for in BiH and North Macedonia, and the future plans of the agencies.

Mr. Asani stated that his Agency has many problems that have accumulated over the past 10 years, however, he expressed his content with the exchange of experience between North Macedonia and BiH in this field.

Mr. Kapo pointed out that seized assets are deposited and until a final decision is made on the confiscation of assets. This has caused the deprecation of seized assets. To address this issue, Mr. Kapo stated that they will propose amendments to the law, in line with EU models, to ensure that everyone can benefit from the seized and confiscated assets and vehicles.

Finally, Mr. Asani stated that in North Macedonia, the seized vehicles have been very beneficial for the government by saving over a million euros of the state. Over a period of two years, the Agency has reallocated about 300 seized vehicles to state institutions for their use. Last, Mr. Asani urged the Bosnian members of the parliament to support the initiative and law amendments proposed by Mr. Kapo as the money generated from the sale of seized property would be transferred to the state budget and would then be spent for beneficial projects.

The Balkan Asset Management Interagency Network (BAMIN) held its first Steering Group Meeting of the year, on the 12th of February 2019, in Podgorica, Montenegro. The meeting was attended by the BAMIN Steering Group representatives from Bosnia & Herzegovina (BiH), Montenegro, Macedonia, BAMIN Secretariat and representatives from the OSCE, which sponsored the organization of the event. BAMIN Steering Group meetings are held regularly to ensure that BAMIN is achieving its network objectives and to discuss preparations for the BAMIN Annual General Meeting, which this year will be held in Bosnia and Herzegovina. 

The meeting also served as a platform for the formal hand-over of the BAMIN Presidency for 2019. Mr. Faton Asani from the Macedonian Agency for Management of Seized and Confiscated Property formally handed the Presidency of BAMIN to Mr. Kenan Kapo, Federal Agency for the Management of Seized Property, and to Ms. Svjetlana Kusić, Seized Asset Management Agency of Republic of Srpska.

Regarding BAMIN membership, it was confirmed that Ukraine and Moldova have joined as Observer Members, bringing the total number of jurisdictions and organizations that have joined BAMIN to eleven. During the meeting, interest in BAMIN from the asset management agencies of Romania, Bulgaria and Czech Republic, as well as the Italian organization Libera was discussed. It was agreed to offer membership to these interested partners should they wish to join the network. The Steering Group also discussed other jurisdictions that may be invited to join BAMIN.

Finally, it was agreed that the repository section of the BAMIN website which will contain relevant regional and international laws on asset management, as well as information relating to the laws and institutions of each BAMIN member, would be prepared in time for the AGM 2019. The BAMIN Questionnaire analysis document, finalized in January 2019 by the Secretariat, will also be made available on the private area of BAMIN website, for all its Members.

The BAMIN SG confirmed the planning for implementation of the Annual General Meeting in BiH, tentatively in the second half of June 2019. The topics that will be discussed at the AGM will be finalized in the month of March 2019 and shared with Members for preparatory work. The AGM 2019 foresees the presence of altogether sixty participants, coming from over twelve jurisdictions located in the Western Balkans, Eastern Europe and EU Member States.

Balkan Asset Management Interagency Network (BAMIN) held the annual general meeting on the 26th and 27th of June and was hosted by the 2018 BAMIN Presidency, Macedonia Agency for Management of Seized and Confiscated Property, with technical support from the European Union funded Project “Further Support to Kosovo Institutions in the Fight Against Organised Crime, corruption and violent Extremism” (OCC-CVE) in Kosovo.

Around 70 asset recovery practitioners from Asset Management Offices, law enforcement, prosecution authorities and court services attended from Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo, Macedonia, Montenegro and Serbia.

Mr. Oliver Ristovski, Deputy Minister of Justice, Macedonia opened the meeting and provided a welcome address. The meeting was Chaired by Mr. Faton ASANI, Director Agency for Management of Seized and Confiscated Property, Macedonia.

In addition, experts were provided with presentations from international experts from Europol, Bulgaria, Ireland and Netherlands, on the most topical Asset Recovery Developments and the Challenges in establishing an effective Asset Management Office.

The main conclusions from the meeting were:

  • The outcomes and recommendations from all three workshops will be compiled into one report and disseminated to all BAMIN Members, meeting participants, the ARIN Secretariats, the EU ARO Platform and its AMO sub-working Group. It will also be disseminated to any other body or agency suggested by the BAMIN Steering Group.
  • Relevant judgements discussed during the meeting to be translated (if funding available) into Serbian and Albanian, circulated to BAMIN members and placed on the BAMIN website, specifically the Irish case of illegal assets starting up a company which goes onto generate alleged ‘legal’ assets.
  • All judgements relating to asset management decisions discussed during the meeting will be translated into Serbian and Albanian, circulated to BAMIN members and placed on the BAMIN website.
  • ECHR judgements on the pre-judgement sale of assets will be analysed in order to highlight that this practice is in line with European human rights. The outcome of this analysis will be circulated to all BAMIN members and placed on the BAMIN website.

BAMIN representatives from Albania, Kosovo, Montenegro, Bosnia and Herzegovina took part in the final conference of the EU-funded Project “Payback”, held in Brussels on 11th of July, during which the results of the project were presented.

Project “PAYBACK” has developed an innovative ICT tool, known as PAYBACK Data Management System which aims at improving the daily management of seized and provisionally confiscated assets and has been tested as a prototype in selected Member States.

PAYBACK DMS focuses on three areas of interest in asset management:

  1. knowing the exact location of seized assets, distinguishing between a) in-door location (typically for movable assets stored in deposits) and b) map location;
  2. knowing changes in the economic value of seized assets, via 1) automatically generated outputs representing depreciation/appreciation/stability over time and b) alerts to selected recipients;
  3. knowing seized assets’ conditions by gathering and storing pictures, videos and any other relevant document, uploaded at different times, to know the exact conditions of a given asset at any time.

The conclusions from the conference were:

  • A working prototype of the PAYBACK DMS has been developed and is ready for operational use. Having such a tool would be useful to any country in asset management.
  • The key challenges for countries in the management of seized and provisionally confiscated assets is the problem of gathering good quality input data.
  • Countries can benefit greatly by PAYBACK DMS in short and long term as it serves to orient pre-seizure planning, choice of storing solutions, asset management actions, asset disposal, accountability and assessment of performance issues.
  • Last, PAYBACK DMS provides an objective standard, backed in real time by thousands of records, to asset management decisions.

The Balkan Asset Management Interagency Network (BAMIN) held its first Steering Group Meeting on 20th and 21st of March 2018, in Sarajevo, Bosnia & Herzegovina. The meeting was attended by the BAMIN Steering Group Representatives from Bosnia & Herzegovina, (BiH), Kosovo (KS), Macedonia (MK) and the BAMIN Secretariat. The meeting was organized as to ensure that BAMIN is progressing well and functioning according to its objectives, as well as to prepare for the BAMIN Annual General Meeting to be held in Skopje, Macedonia on the 26th and 27th of June.

Representing the Agency for Management and Sequestration of Criminal Assets (AMSCA) Kosovo, and the 2017 BAMIN Presidency, Mr Alban Sutaj formally handed the Presidency of BAMIN over to Director Faton Asani from the Macedonian Agency for Management of Seized and Confiscated Property. Mr. Sutaj proceeded to present the work done by Kosovo between 2014 and 2017 as the BAMIN President, and expressed that with Macedonia as the new President, BAMIN would continue to deliver on its aims and objectives.

Regarding BAMIN membership, it was confirmed that of the 8 regional jurisdictions invited to the BAMIN meetings to date, Albania, BiH, Croatia, Kosovo, Macedonia and Montenegro had returned “informal” registration forms to join BAMIN, with Serbia and Slovenia to be confirmed. It was also announced that Belgium would join the network as an Observer Member. In addition, Wilsons Auctions, an independent auctioning company from the United Kingdom will be joining as an associate member of the network.

Last, regarding the visibility of BAMIN, the Secretariat informed that the BAMIN website is in the workings, as well as other core communication documents, such as the BAMIN Manual and the BAMIN Leaflet. AThe Website and the documents will be presented during the BAMIN AGM 2018 in Skopje, Macedonia.